How Shale Gas Can Benefit Us and the Environment

It took less than an hour for Apple to sell out the initial supply of its new iPhone 5. It’s thinner, lighter, faster, brighter, taller than its predecessors, and yet it costs the same. That’s called progress.

Elsewhere, progress is met by protest rather than praise.

A suite of technologies has brought vast supplies of previously unrecoverable shale gas within reach of humans, dramatically expanding natural gas reserves in the U.S. and around the world. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have produced a fuel that can at once promote a cooler planet and an expanded economy, essentially eliminating the tradeoff between climate change mitigation and the pursuit of other public projects and, perhaps, economic growth. But unlike the iPhone, the productivity gain embodied in shale gas technologies doesn’t attract a cult following and its benefits get obscured. 

What Will Be the Impact of Seven Billion People?

On Halloween this year, the world's population will hit seven billion -- or so estimates the United Nations Population Fund. Spooky, considering we hit six billion only a little more than a decade ago. Elizabeth Kolbert offers a brief history of population growth in a recent New Yorker article:

Depending on how you look at things, it has taken humanity a long time to reach this landmark, or practically no time at all. Around ten thousand years ago, there were maybe five million people on earth. By the time of the First Dynasty in Egypt, the number was up to about fifteen million, and by the time of the birth of Christ it had climbed to somewhere in the vicinity of two hundred million. Global population finally reached a billion around 1800, just a couple of years after Thomas Malthus published his famous essay warning that human numbers would always be held in check by war, pestilence, or “inevitable famine.”

Of course, we all know that Malthus was a little off the mark.

Is the "Natural Resource Curse" Not Quite True?

Accepted wisdom generally holds that the presence of natural resources in a developing country is bad news, leading to a so-called natural resource curse. But a new research paper throws water on the theory and provides evidence that suggests the opposite, a "resource blessing."

Navigating the Natural Resource Curse

When oil was discovered in 2007 off the shores of small, sturdy Ghana, the country's government officials called the discovery "perhaps the greatest managerial challenge" the country had faced since independence. John Kufuor, Ghana's president at the time, warned that "instead of a being a blessing, oil sometimes proves the undoing of many ... nations who come by this precious commodity."

Ghana's reaction no doubt surprised oil-starved observers in developed countries, but the Ghanaian officials were referring to the "resource curse" that has wreaked havoc in other resource-rich, developing countries. Natural-resource wealth not only increases civil violence but, in a bizarre development paradox, is linked to lower economic growth.

What Do U.S. Oil Production and Mick Jagger Have in Common?

Photo: hiabba They both peaked in the late 1960’s. You can infer that, anyway, from this handy chart at the blog OverthinkingIt. They found a correlation between the decline in U.S. oil production and the decline in the quality of pop music, as measured by Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All […]